Voluntary Pricing Generates Change & Profits

UPDATE: I’ll be interviewing Denise Cerreta on Monday. Check back next week to hear about her experiences with One World Cafe.

There are no prices or fixed menus at One World Cafe in Salt Lake City, Utah. Customers choose their portion sizes and pay what they deem fit. The “community kitchen” is One World Cafe’s founder Denise Cerreta’s first step toward eliminating hunger.

Since mid-2003, the cafe has served up seasonal organic cuisine for pay-what-you’d-like prices. Customers pay an average of $10. Cerreta’s concept is to create a community space that embraces nutrition, generates minimal food waste, pays living wages and is accessible to everyone. Those unable to pay can volunteer for an hour in return for a meal voucher. In addition, the cafe provides a daily gratis staple dish that anyone can eat.

Terrific concept, but is it an embellished soup kitchen in actuality? Where’s the sustainability, where’s the profit?

These questions are expected. One World Everybody Eats Foundation (an outgrowth of the cafe) posts financial information on their web site in an effort toward transparency and to model success for others looking to start pay-what-you’d-like eateries.

Profitable since 2005, the cafe earned $348,730 in revenue in 2007 with a 5% profit margin (a 28% margin if Cerreta were to pay minimum wages). There’s more to the model than customer payments equaling a profitable average. The cafe saves on payroll services and credit card charges and stands out among its competition.

It works in Salt Lake City and Ceretta believes the paradigm is universally applicable. One World Everybody Eats aims to open new cafes throughout the United States as well as abroad.

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  1. Former Employee October 25, 2008 at 1:55 pm #

    I am a former employee of One World Everybody Eats. On Friday, October 17th, I along with the entire One World crew, walked out the door never to return unless certain key issues were addressed by Denise and the board. One of the most important of these is that the organization is not a legal non-profit as it claims to be. Rather it is being run illegally and by taking advantage of its loyal patrons. When we addressed the board on this issue we found that they already knew about this problem, but did not care to do anything about it.
    After our walk out on Friday, we have made many attempts to meet with both Denise and the board on the issues listed below and also provided in the attachment (this is the actual document that we, as a community of former One World employees, discussed and designed). All of our outreach attempts have been ignored. Because One World refuses to reorganize itself in a way that is true to the vision it has promised our community it would follow, we feel that we must expose such lies and broken promises to the community One World claims to support.
    To the One World Board:
    Love and peace to you from the unified voice of the One World Staff. We would like to preface our list of grievances by approaching you with open minds and hearts. We would most importantly like you to understand that these do not stem from bitterness, but from sincere concerns for the well-being of the Vision we have all been a part of. It has indeed been a great vision, accompanied by loving people and a growing sense of community.
    Despite the great things we have witnessed at One World, there have been persistent grievances we would like to make clear to you. We are presenting them to you as a unified staff with love for the vision and for the individuals as well:
    *We would first off like to reiterate our love for One World and the vision it promotes. Without it, we would have left the restaurant when our checks did not cash months ago.
    *The overall mission of One World states that its vision is to promote trust in the community and that we are a trust-based organization. We have not seen or felt the trust extended to the employees of the restaurant by the board; in return, the employees feel they cannot trust the board.
    *Involvement in the kitchen with Denise especially is suspect to us. She has not been present these past months, and is gearing to leave us again in this time of crisis. Her actions and decisions have been portrayed as those of a qualified leader, yet her absence does not communicate those qualifications to us as a staff.
    In conversations with Denise we have felt that there is no open dialogue or no room to respond to accusations or suspicions voiced.
    We feel Denise especially is demeaning and disrespectful in the way she addresses employees, even while engaging with customers. She has interrupted conversations and interactions with caring patrons to berate at times overwhelmed staff members on less than pressing matters.
    We also feel there has not been trust invested in the employees to care about the survival of the restaurant and act in such a manner. There has been unreasonable criticism and demeaning attitudes toward hard-working employees making sacrifices for the survival of the vision.
    *We feel the organization of the foundation is not transparent. The actions and even membership of the board has not been clearly communicated. As well, any legal questions or concerns we have had have been circumvented or answered without sound backing, or have not even been validated with appropriate levels of response.
    *We have felt manipulated and been given unrealistic expectations outside of job descriptions, training, or monetary compensation. Even the unpaid volunteers and at times employees are held to unattainable, harsh or uncompassionate expectations.
    *We feel that discrimination has been practiced against members of the community we are committed to promoting. People who have supported the One World from its onset and people who have given of their time and love in an unreciprocated manner.
    *We feel attempts made by the board, without consultation of the staff, to stop the downward progression of the restaurant have back-fired and in fact acted as a catalyst to its demise.
    *We feel the recent changes implemented have been made based upon purely financial reasoning at the expense of the core principles of the vision to which the current staff is dedicated. We feel the reversal of such priorities is something we cannot support.

  2. Tony April 7, 2011 at 4:58 am #

    I have reed the blog as well as the comments from Former Employee and see that you talked much about One World and Denise.”Any legal questions or concerns we have had have been circumvented or answered without sound backing, or have not even been validated with appropriate levels of response”? Could you make me clear about the legal questions you mentioned here and what happened at that time?

    Tony is Webmaster at notary classes

  3. Olivia Khalili April 8, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    Hi Tony,

    You raise a terrific question. Unfortunately, I can’t speak to what happened or about the specific legal issues that the commenter alludes to. Much of the above comment is about relationships within the organization and the personal treatment of employees, although the commenter does mention legal issues that impact One World’s vision and purpose. I’m sorry I can’t speak to these issues or to what has happened since.

  4. angelle April 8, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

    As i read the former employers comment he express his feelings about what happen when he work before in the cafe,then i realize that,why does the board did not care about the problems happen to the One World? Is this any reasons behind this issue? Then if you feel that the board can’t handled their position then why should you let him go in his position? out them in the one world and find the best of them!!! I know that this is not easy but for the seek of a cafe, then do it….

  5. Scoop May 18, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    I am a current volunteer and the former Volunteer Coordinator of One World Cafe’….

    I worked at OWEE from 2003 till 2005… I left before the “Great Walk Out”…. I left for personal family reasons…. Upon moving back to SLC, Utah I found myself banned from One World by Denise…. When I tried to ask her why she would not talk to me. This is before the Cafe went non profit…. And before Bo and my friends all left…

    Now… I could stay bitter at Denise…. But I have since found much peace… I am now married with 2 children, a step son and a baby on the way…. You could say I matured a lot in the past 6 years..

    The Cafe is now under new ownership… But Denise still has a say in it…. The belief that she helped create is still there and strong….

    Some of my former co workers would probably dislike me telling them this…. Grow up guys…. The cafe Denise created expands beyond them or even me… They fail to admit they weren’t all perfect, nor was I… Nor was or is Denise…. True Denise is no chef…. And at times she had a big head and got in the way of other employees spotlights… But she had cause to fire many of us even back in 2005 for many reasons… She didn’t for whatever reasons….

    I am now back at One World Cafe as a volunteer through the very same DWS program I helped put into motion in 2004… The staff at OWEE is very small now with only one paid employee… However over the last few days I see a ton of hope for it… It would be awesome to have Bo, and Brad, Brian and Dan and the others back…. I miss them…. But the concept of One World is BIGGER than all of us…

    Most of you reading this blog would never understand… You would need to come volunteer to know….